AVICULTURAL

MAGAZINE

VOLUME 112 No. 3 2006

THE AVICULTURAL SOCIETY

The Avicultural Society was founded in 1894 for the study of British and foreign birds in the wild and in captivity. The Society is international in character, having members throughout the world.

Membership subscription rates per annum for 2006 as for 2005: British Isles £18.00: Overseas £21.00 (plus £6.00 for airmail). (U.K. funds please). The subscription is due on 1st January of each year and those joining the Society later in the year will receive back numbers of the current volume of the AVICULTURAL MAGAZINE.

THE HON. SECRETARY AND TREASURER, THE AVICULTURAL SOCIETY, ARCADIA, THE MOUNTS, TOTNES, DEVON TQ9 7QJ, UK.

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THE AVICULTURAL MAGAZINE welcomes original articles that have not been published elsewhere and that essentially concern the aviculture of a particular bird or group of birds, or that describe their natural history. Articles should be preferably typewritten, with double spacing, and the scientific names as well as the vernacular names of birds should be given. References cited in the text should be listed at the end of the article. Line drawings, black and white or colour photographs which illustrate a particular point in the article will be used where possible and should be clearly captioned. If authors wish their eventual return, they must say so when submitting the article and write their name on the back of each photograph. Tables and graphs will also be used wherever possible but authors should be aware of the constraints of reproduction, particularly regarding the width of the page which is 105mm.

ADDRESS OF THE EDITOR

Malcolm Ellis, Hon. Editor, The Avicultural Magazine, The Chalet, Hay Farm, St. Breock, Wadebridge, Cornwall PL27 7LL, England.

E-mail: editor@avisoc.co.uk

Avicultural Magazine

THE JOURNAL OF THE AVICULTURAL SOCIETY

Vol. 112 - No. 3 All rights reserved ISSN 0005 2256 2006

BREEDING THE BLACK-FACED LAUGHINGTHRUSH Garrulax affinis

by Nigel Hewston

The Black-faced Laughingthrush is one of many of its congeners with a wide distribution in the Himalayas, ranging from Nepal through Myanmar to western China and Taiwan. Birds present in the UK are of Chinese origin. Rutgers (1969) stated that it is found at higher altitudes than other laughingthrushes, up to 9,000ft (approx. 2,745m) or even 1 1 ,000ft (approx. 3,350m), so it is not surprising that it has proved to be hardy in European aviaries. According to Grewal, Harvey & Pfister (2002), in India, it is a common breeding resident in the northern mountains, wintering lower in the foothills. It inhabits forest undergrowth and montane scrub, feeding in pairs or small parties on invertebrates and fruits and nesting in low growth. It is apparently more confiding than other laughingthrushes, running rather than flying from disturbances. Grimmett, Inskipp & Inskipp ( 1 999) described its habitat as forest and shrubberies above the treeline.

It is a predominately brown, but very attractive, medium-sized laughingthrush. The head is blackish brown with broad white moustachial markings and a partial white ring behind the eyes. The breast, mantle and scapulars appear scaled, as the feathers have dark brown margins and paler, greyer centres. In a good light the scapulars and parts of the mantle are also glossed with olive. The rump and vent are a rich chestnut and the flight and tail feathers are golden-olive at the base changing to slaty blue-grey at the tips. The eyes and beak are black and the legs a brownish pink. Western birds have prominent white patches on the sides of the neck, but these are less pronounced in Chinese birds. In the pair which bred these were completely absent in one bird and apparent as silvery-grey smudges in the other. Dave Coles (2000) listed six subspecies, Howard & Moore (1984) seven, of which five are present in The Natural History Museum at Tring (Coles, 2000). I have not examined these skins, so have not identified which subspecies my birds belong to.

The male has a clear, but not very loud or interesting whistled song

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HEWSTON - BLACK-FACED LAUGHINGTHRUSH

usually of only four notes, described by Grewal, Harvey & Pfister (2002) as “wheet wheeoo woo”. The female has a more plaintive whistle analogous to that made by female Pekin Robins Leiothrix lute a and Omei Shan Liocichlas Liocichla omeiensis which are unpaired or separated from their mates, except that with the laughingthrushes I have occasionally heard this while the male is present. It is similar particularly to the liocichla call, but often contains three or even four notes, as opposed to the two of the liocichla. There is also a metallic chattering or whirring call which may be used as a scolding or alarm call, but which is also used in a duetting display, accompanied by wing flicking. There is another harsh, loud call which I have heard from the juvenile bird and, I think, from the adults, the function of which is not clear to me.

I received a pair of these birds early in April 2005 on loan from Andrew Blyth. This pair, plus another pair and a single female, had previously been here from May 2001 -March 2002, while Andrew was rebuilding some of his aviaries. They would have stayed longer, but one pair came into breeding condition in January 2002 and became dangerous to smaller birds (Hewston, 2002). At that time I had no suitable breeding aviary which the pair could have to itself, so the pair was returned to Andrew, along with the other three birds, though these had not caused any problems in mixed aviaries. By 2005 three of the five birds survived, including the pair which had shown no signs of breeding during its last stay, and this was the pair which was returned to me. All the birds were imported in 1997, so the pair was at least eight years old at the time of breeding.

On arrival the pair was housed on its own in a 24ft x 12ft (approx. 7.3m x 3.6m) planted aviary with a shelter 8ft x 4ft (approx. 2.4m x 1.2m) in a shed which also contained the shelter for a pair of Omei Shan Liocichlas which arrived at the same time and was housed in an adjacent aviary. The aviary had been empty for two years and had become rather overgrown. The front was fairly open, with a wire roof and sides and a tall, narrow conifer, a low Lonicera bush, some young bamboo, a large Kniphofia in a pot and a grassed area, but a Hebe in the centre had grown up to and through the roof and almost filled the whole width of the aviary. Together with a Cotoneaster at one side, a leylandii at the other and a hornbeam Carpinus sp. also in the middle, they virtually blocked off the back of the aviary, which was enclosed by fence panels at the back and on one side, and the shed on the other, with opaque sheeting on the roof There was also a large honeysuckle growing up a central roof support behind the Hebe. The aviary was furnished with natural perches and had a large log in the middle. The back had been used as a log store while empty, and logs were left stacked about 3 ft (lm) high along the back wall. The top was cut off the cotoneaster to allow the birds to fly the length of one side of the aviary. A universal

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food, soaked softbill pellets and sultanas, fresh fruit (mainly chopped pear) and mealworms were provided in the shelter.

The birds settled quickly and after about a week a few pieces of nesting material were found dropped on the shelter floor, often the first indication that breeding activity has begun. On April 22nd a nest in the early stages of construction was found about 5ft (1.5m) above the ground near the top of the leylandii. A certain amount of dead grass and growing moss were available on the aviary floor, along with bamboo leaves, which were supplemented with tough grass stems, softer grass, moss (provided growing on rocks) and coconut fibre. All these materials were used to make a deep cup, which appeared quite advanced by April 25th, though the first egg was not laid until the 30th. There were two eggs in the first clutch, which were not actually seen until May 1 6th, the first time since laying that both adults were seen away from the nest. The eggs were incubated until May 21st, when they were candled and found to be clear, so were removed. They were bright blue with a few small dark spots at the large end.

On May 24th the nest was being re-lined, mainly with coconut fibre, and the first egg of the second clutch was laid on May 28th. There were two eggs again and this time they were candled after about six days and were both fertile. Nest inspection was difficult as the sitting bird needed to be flushed from the nest and a mirror used to see inside. The nest with its new lining was now very deep, and the bird trying to leave in a hurry found its way blocked by branches, so inspections were kept to a minimum to avoid stress and possible injury to the sitting bird and damage to the eggs.

On June 1 2th there were still two eggs in the morning, in the evening one of the birds was seen apparently eating aphids from hornbeam leaves. The next morning there was one chick in the nest, and two by the evening, giving an incubation period of 14- 1 5 days. Mini mealworms were provided ad-lib, with white-skinned ones provided at least three times daily, along with small brown crickets (fed dead, thawed from frozen). After a couple of days waxworms and larger white-skinned mealworms were added, with larger crickets and regular mealworms replacing the smaller ones as the chicks grew.

All appeared to be going well until one chick was found dead below the nest on June 26th. Its body plumage appeared uniformly dark brown and had not spread out from the tracts to cover the whole body. The dark grey flight feathers were only just longer than the coverts. Its skin was pink, it had a prominent yellow gape and its legs were pale flesh coloured. The other chick was still alive but could not be persuaded to raise its head.

However, the second chick did survive and I consulted Dave Coles’s excellent handbook to find out when I might expect it to fledge. The youngest fledging age given is 12 days, with the most likely age being 14-16 days. I

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was not too alarmed when the chick failed to fledge at 16 days, as Dave states that some chicks take as long as 1 8 days, but when the chick had not fledged by the morning of July 3rd I thought it must have a problem. However, by the next morning it had fledged and was looking healthy and behaving normally despite having stayed in the nest for at least 20 days or probably 2 1 days. It had the usual short tail and was duller coloured than its parents, but was a good size and was perching in honeysuckle the following day. It found its way into the shelter at 32 days old, by which time the

Juvenile at 32 days old.

parents were building another nest in the honeysuckle. Three eggs were laid and I made the mistake of assuming that they would be fertile, but when one was found broken below the nest after 10 days’ incubation, I candled the others and found they were infertile. There were no further nesting attempts in 2005. The young bird which continued to develop well was still begging, and being fed, on August 24th, though I am sure it was also feeding itself long before then. It was DNA-sexed and found to be a male. I removed it from its parents in late September to be paired with Andrew’s other, surviving bird, which fortunately is a female and which he kindly let me have on loan.

This year (2006), the original pair nested three times. The first egg was laid on April 23rd. This year there were two eggs in each clutch, one of which hatched from each of the first two clutches, but both chicks died at five days old. At least one of the eggs in the third clutch was fertile but failed to hatch. Following a winter trim, the conifer that the birds had used

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the previous year was not quite the nest site it had been and the birds initially struggled to build a nest in it. However, they took readily to a basket wired to the tree at their chosen site. All three clutches were laid in a nest built, and subsequently re-lined, in this basket.

The new pair, in a smaller (1 5ft x 6ft (approx. 4.5m x 1 .8m)) aviary, was given a dead conifer to nest in which the pair chose in preference to a large clump of bamboo. The pair had the same problem as the first pair and accepted the same solution and had a good nest in the basket by mid-May. No eggs appeared and I eventually noticed that a large lump had appeared on the female’s abdomen. I assumed that attempting to breed for the first time at an advanced age had caused a problem in her reproductive tract. She showed no discomfort and was removed to another aviary, to be replaced in early July by another female kindly loaned by Birdworld, near Famham, Surrey. This bird settled well with the male but no serious attempt was made to nest.

The new female had been in the collection at Birdworld since 1998. I can find no other record of the breeding of the Black-faced Laughingthrush and I am concerned that in 2007, the 2005 male will be the only bird in the UK less than 1 0 years old, and without very good luck it may be too late to establish this species in captivity, at a time when it seems very unlikely that further stock will become available from Asia in the near future, if ever. I would be very interested to hear from anyone else who keeps this species in the UK or elsewhere. There is a real danger that most species of laughingthrushes now present in aviaries in the UK and elsewhere will be lost unless a concerted effort is made to breed from them in the very near future.

References

Coles, D. 2000. Management of Laughingthrushes in Captivity. DC Books, UK.

Grewal, B., Harvey, B. and Pfister, O. 2002. A Photographic Guide to the Birds of India. Christopher Helm, London.

Grimmett, R., Inskipp, K. and Inskipp, T. 1999. Pocket Guide to Birds of the Indian Sub- Continent. Christopher Helm, London.

Hewston, N. R. 2002. Letters to the Editor. Avicultural Magazine, 108,2:85-86.

Howard, R. and Moore, A. 1984. A Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. Macmillan, London.

Rutgers, A. and Gould, J. 1969. Birds of Asia. Methuen, London.

Nigel Hewston is an Avicultural Society Council Member. He lives at Stonehouse, Glos., UK. E-mail: nigelhewston@supanet.com

As described above, the Black-faced Laughingthrush Garrulax affinis , has been bred by Nigel Hewston. It is believed to be the first breeding of this species in Great Britain or Ireland. Anyone who knows of a previous breeding is asked to inform the Hon. Secretary.

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AVICULTURAL SUPPORT FOR THE ECHO PARAKEET PROGRAMME ON MAURITIUS

by Roger Wilkinson

This is a short account of the Echo Parakeet Psittacula eques conservation programme that is run by the Mauritius Wildlife Conservation Foundation (MWF) in partnership with the National Parks and Conservation Service, Mauritius. In particular it highlights the support from Chester Zoo and other conservation organisations in assisting this programme, both through staff involvement and financial support. This account expands and updates an article previously published by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) in Proceedings of the EAZA Conference 2004.

Chester Zoo is also assisting other conservation initiatives on Mauritius, including providing technical and financial support for the Mauritius Fody Foudia rubra and the Olive White-eye Zosterops olivacea recovery programmes and has assisted with financial support for veterinary research on the Pink Pigeon Columba (. Nesoenas ) mayeri. More recently financial and staff support has been provided for projects on the conservation of threatened endemic plants. In the Mascarenes, Chester Zoo continues to support research on the Rodrigues Fruit Bat Pteropus rodricensis and through Shoals Rodrigues also helps to finance both marine conservation and community initiatives.

Chester Zoo is one of several organisations supporting the Echo Parakeet conservation project. The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (Jersey Zoo) is the major sponsor of the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation and significant investments in the Echo Parakeet programme have been made by the World Parrot Trust (WPT), The Parrot Society and the Loro Parque Fundacion.

I was able to visit Mauritius and Rodrigues in November 2003 when, staying as a house guest of Carl Jones, I learned so much more about these projects through meeting the MWF staff at the field sites. This was especially the case regarding the conservation programme for the Echo Parakeet. I had several enjoyable days accompanying members of the Echo Parakeet team in the field at the most critical time during that year’s Echo Parakeet breeding season.

Conservation history

The Echo Parakeet, which is Critically Endangered, occurs only on Mauritius. In 1986 only eight to 12 birds were known, and only two or three of these were females, although a few other birds may have been overlooked. These were restricted to the Black River gorges and surrounding forests, an area that in 1993 was designated the countiy’s first national park.

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It was set up to conserve the Mauritius Kestrel Falco punctatus , Echo Parakeet, Pink Pigeon and other native wildlife. Further research in 1994 and 1995 gave an estimate of 30 Echo Parakeets in the wild. Although a considerable improvement on the previous estimate, this larger estimate still suggested that extinction was imminent unless immediate conservation attention was focused on this species. Under the guidance of Carl Jones, the Scientific Director of the MWF, and with integrated wild and captive management, the Echo Parakeet recovery has been extremely successful. Through a combination of the release of captive-bred birds and active management of the wild population, by April 2006 the number of birds in the wild had increased to 300-320 individuals.

Conservation management

Conservation management is focused on the Echo Parakeets living in the wild, with back-up captive breeding and captive rearing facilities for young birds rescued/harvested from the wild. The field work is coordinated by Jason Malham, a New Zealander, and the Echo Parakeet programme has close interactions with staff of the New Zealand Department of Conservation, with benefits to both as a result of sharing experiences and ideas for recovery programmes for island birds. The captive facilities are managed by Frederique Koenig, a Mauritian trained at Jersey Zoo, who has run the captive facilities for several years. During my visit the hand-rearing of both captive- bred and rescued wild-hatched chicks was managed by Ryan Watson, from Adelaide Zoo, Australia. Ryan is one of a number of staff members from Adelaide Zoo, who over the years have assisted the MWF conservation programmes. In the 2004-2005 breeding season, for example, Heidi Groffen and Pat Hodgens from Adelaide Zoo assisted with releases and hand-raised birds respectively. Prior to this, between 1 997- 1 998, Paradise Park, Cornwall, home of the World Parrot Trust, seconded Kirsty Jenkin, Nick Reynolds, Dale Jackson and Pete Haverson to assist with the Echo Parakeet programme on Mauritius.

Management in the wild, includes checking nest site activities, the provision of artificial nest cavities, nest monitoring and clutch and brood manipulations, supplementary feeding and monitoring of released birds and predator control. Echo Parakeet nest cavities may be taken over by other birds including the White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon l ep turns. The latter is discouraged by fixing branches across the entrance to nest cavities, thereby making access to them difficult for this species. Unusual nest predators include the large African srmlAchatina that has on several occasions ‘slimed’ young chicks to death in the nest. Areas of the tree trunk above and below the nest entrance are covered in wrap around plastic sheeting that is greased to discourage nest predators, such as monkeys and rats, that may climb up

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to the nests. The Black Rat Rattus rattus is kept under control by poisoning and trapping in areas close to active nest sites.

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Roger Wilkinson

Pair of wild Echo Parakeets.

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WILKINSON - ECHO PARAKEET

Artificial nests of several different designs are also provided, as the number of suitable natural nest sites is limited and competition for these may limit the number of breeding pairs in an area. The nests are inspected daily and records kept of egg-laying, hatch dates and chick development. This necessitates tree climbing and both Jason and the rest of the field team are skilled climbers. Chicks are weighed and any that weigh less than 20% of the average weight for chicks of their age are removed for hand-rearing. Rescued chicks are transported to the Gerald Durrell Endemic Wildlife Sanctuary (GDEWS) and after being hand-reared there are released back into the wild.

Supplementary feeding is through pole-mounted hoppers containing commercially manufactured parrot pellets. The Echo Parakeets learn to lift up the lids of these hoppers so as to feed. The lids prevent the pellets being taken by other birds and mammals.

Chester Zoo

Conservation support and staff involvement

Direct financial support to MWF in terms of grants between 2000-2005 for Echo Parakeet programme support, including the construction of release aviaries, amounted to over £29,000 (approx. US$54,000). Costs related to Chester Zoo staff working on Mauritius (but excluding their salaries), whilst seconded from Chester Zoo, take these costs to well over £40,000 (approx. US$75, 000) over the six years we have been supporting this programme. Most of these costs have previously been met from our conservation budget, that is itself derived from visitor revenue to the zoo. This allows us to inform our zoo visitors that their visit directly supports field conservation. In 2004 and 2005 the funds for the keeper assistance and day to day cover in their absence came from the hugely successful Keeper for a Day scheme (in which members of the public pay to be a keeper for a day) run by the Chester Zoo keeping staff. This financial and staff investment has provided significant benefits to this programme and directly links to the zoo’s conservation mission. This support is perhaps unusual in that much of Chester Zoo’s conservation outreach focuses on threatened species we hold in the zoo. We do not presently hold any Echo Parakeets, although we hope that we may in the future. Through the Echo Parakeet work we support a Critically Endangered species that we do not currently hold and export our staff expertise to assist this conservation programme.

Anne Morris was our first staff member to work on Mauritius and spent three months in 2000-2001 at the Black River Aviaries (now the Gerald Durrell Endemic Wildlife Sanctuary), where her main task was hand-rearing Echo Parakeets. Anne and her husband Paul have many years’ experience of parrot husbandry and of hand-rearing parrots at Chester Zoo, and this

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was a real opportunity for those skills to be directly applied to parrot conservation in the wild. The facilities and protocols for hand-rearing parrots at the GDEWS are excellent and gave Anne new insights into best practise for parrot rearing. Anne then stayed on longer at Black River and worked with the team releasing the birds she had reared. This greatly assisted the release process and generated real personal satisfaction for her in seeing the birds she had reared being successfully released.

In 2003, two more of our bird keepers, Paul Morris and Clare Daniel, were seconded to MWF for a combined period of over three months and worked with staff releasing hand-reared birds. The release process involves a soft release that requires a combination of keeper skills and knowledge of how the birds behave. After having been hand-reared, the parakeets are first accustomed to their release aviaries and then the behaviour of the released birds is carefully monitored. Again this is an area in which our staff members’ experience and skills are uniquely appropriate to assist this most important parrot conservation programme. Paul returned to Mauritius to assist with field work on the Echo Parakeets during the 2004-2005 breeding season.

Chester Zoo staff involvement in this project has been beneficial to Echo Parakeet conservation, the MWF and Chester Zoo. This involvement has benefited our staff in terms of their personal experience in working with a team of wildlife conservationists abroad and applying and developing their skills in a new situation. It has also given them the new experience of working field conservation and benefits Chester Zoo through their increased experience that can be communicated to other staff members and our public. The conservation mission of Chester Zoo then becomes real to our keepers and not abstract. They can really say that they have helped save the Echo Parakeet from extinction.

The Mauritius Wildlife Foundation is very happy with the close relationship that has developed with Chester Zoo and the other collections in developing this project. In the 1980s the Echo Parakeet was regarded by many as a hopeless case, but due to the international effort described above and the close involvement of the National Parks and Conservation Services on Mauritius, this has become one of the most successful parrot restoration programmes in the world and provides an important example for the conservation of other endangered parrots.

Acknowledgments

I am grateful to Carl Jones, who has been instrumental in saving many Mauritian species from extinction, for correcting and adding to a previous version of this article. I also wish to thank Paul Morris, Anne Moms and Clare Daniel for information on their experiences whilst seconded on Mauritius. The whole Echo Parakeet team, past and present, deserve our

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WILKINSON - ECHO PARAKEET

Roger Wilkinson

Male at pole-mounted hopper containing commercially manufactured parrot pellets.

thanks for working against all odds and under often arduous conditions, to ensure the survival of the Echo Parakeet in the forests of Mauritius. Finally thanks to the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Chester Zoo, Paradise Park, Adelaide Zoo, the World Parrot Trust, Loro Parque Fundacion and the many other supporters, with apologies to those not named, that have enabled this conservation work to proceed.

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Roger Wilkinson

One and four-day-old Echo Parakeet chicks.

Roger Wilkinson

Paul Morris radio-tracking released Echo Parakeets.

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Bibliography

BirdLife International. 2000. Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge, UK.

Jones, C. G. 2004. Conservation and Management of Endangered Birds. In: Sutherland, W. J., Newton, I and Green, R. E. Bird Ecology and Conservation. A Handbook of Techniques, Chapter 12, pp.269-30 1. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Malham, J., Reuleaux, A., Buckland, S., van de Wetering, J., Sawmy, S. and Bowkett, R. 2004. Management of Echo Parakeets in the Wild 2003/2004. In: Echo Parakeet Management Report

2004. Unpublished report to Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, World Parrot Trust, Chester Zoo and Conservation Service of Mauritius and Mauritius Wildlife Foundation.

Plant, A., Groffen, H. and Hodgens, P. 2005. The Release of Echo Parakeets in the Wild 2004/

2005. In: Echo Parakeet Management Report 2005. Unpublished report to the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Chester Zoo, World Parrot Trust, IBL Limited, General Construction, National Parks and Conservation Service of Mauritius and Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. Reuleaux, A., Malham, J., Morris, P., Daniel, C., van de Wetering, J., Buckland, S., Sawmy, S. and Bowkett, R. 2004. The release of Echo Parakeets at Bel Ombre 2003/2004. In: Echo Parakeet Management Report 2004. Unpublished report to Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, World Parrot Trust, Chester Zoo and Conservation Service of Mauritius and Mauritius Wildlife Foundation.

Wilkinson, R. 2005. The Mauritius Wildlife Foundation echo parakeet programme and zoo conservation support. In: Hiddinga, B. (ed.) Proceedings of the EAZA Conference 2004, Kolmarden, pp. 200-202. EAZA Executive Office, Amsterdam.

Dr Roger Wilkinson is Head of Science and Conservation, Chester Zoo, Upton-by-Chester, Chester CH2 ILH, UK. Roger is an Avicultural Society Vice President.

SPRING SOCIAL MEETING 2007

Saturday, March 31st, the Avicultural Society will visit Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP 18 0JH.

BREEDING THE ELEGANT CRESTED TINAMOU

Eudromia e. elegans

in

by Bryan Andrews

Living in West Wales, just a few miles (kilometres) from Phil Cleeton of C&J Bird Brokers, enables me to call in on a regular basis to see his fresh imports. These are mainly softbills, but on one such visit I saw and purchased two juvenile Elegant Crested Tinamou, that had been captive-bred in Europe. The Elegant Crested Tinamou is found throughout Argentina and Chile. It is one of 46 species of these ground-dwelling, omnivorous species, that range in size from that of a quail to that of a guineafowl. They inhabit arid and semi-arid grassland, dry savannah and open woodland, favouring open sites. Thought of as a primitive group of birds, they appear to be closely related to the ratites, the tinamous having strong legs and feet that lack a hind toe (Davies, 2002).

The half-grown birds I had purchased grew well and turned out to be a true pair. They were housed in a well planted aviary, that they shared with pairs of Crested Wood Partridge Rollulus roulroul , Schalow’s Wheatear Oenanthe schalowi and a group of six White-headed Mousebirds Colitis leucocephalus. The tinamous never roosted in the sleeping quarters, which had heating and lighting, but instead slept in a shallow scrape in the only uncovered part of the aviary. They roosted there even during the worst weather.

Over the Christmas 2005 period, four eggs were laid in a deep scrape. Because of the poor weather they were removed for artificial incubation and were measured, weighed and photographed. On the 1 0th day they were candled and all four proved to be infertile.

Both tinamous came through the winter without any ills, enjoying a diet of diced mixed fruits, Beapher softfood and Puik wild birdseed with added chopped peanuts. A couple of buckets of sand mixed with crushed oystershell provided them with a play area into which a number of mealworms were thrown each morning, and both the tinamous and the partridges spent time hunting for them.

The tinamous started the 2006 laying season on April 6th, using the same scrape as before. This is at the base of a very large Japonica shrub. As no attempt was made to conceal the eggs, I was able to keep a close check on them and remove each fresh egg as it was laid and replace it with one of the eggs from the earlier infertile clutch, hoping as I did so that the female could not count beyond four! I used Brinsea Octogon 20 incubators run at a temperature of 37.6°C (99.7°F) and a wet bulb reading of 60%-65% for the first 16 days, which was raised to 70%-75% for the remainder of the

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Sarah Lewis & Bryan Andrews

Elegant Crested Tinamou.

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Sarah Lewis & Bryan Andrews

Distinctively coloured eggs of the Elegant Crested Tinamou.

Sarah Lewis & Bryan Andrews

This photo gives an idea of the size of the chick .

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Sarah Lewis & Bryan Andrews

Taking mealworms from the hand.

hatching period. The incubation time varied from 18-21 days, with the heavier chicks being the earliest to hatch (see Table 1). The egg colour, as seen in the photograph (p. 1 1 3 ), never varied, but there was a slight variation in both the dimensions and the weight of the eggs, although these differences did not correlate with the hatching weights of the chicks.

The chicks hatch fully feathered and with the crest already visible (see photo p.l 13). As can be seen in Table I, all did not go well at the start of rearing, which was due to the reluctance on the part of the chicks to take any of the foods offered, which included micro crickets and skinned mealworms. The breakthrough came when I started to force-feed the chicks at two-hourly intervals with soaked trout pellets. These seemed to do the trick and by day five the chicks were playing with compound crumbs that had been dressed with livefood. The preferred dry food was a pin-head sized compound that I had purchased in Singapore. Made by a company called 3 Coins, it is used by bird keepers there to feed their white-eyes Zosterops spp. This tiny compound is made from green peas, soya beans, black beans, unpolished rice, sugar, proteins and vitamins. So far I have been unable to find it here in the UK.

By the second week, the chicks were hunting down medium-sized crickets and eating a few mealworms each day. I think I may have overdone the amount of protein provided for two of the chicks as both suffered from slight angel wing. This was easily corrected using micropore tape left on

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Table 1. Eggs and chicks hatched in incubator.

Egg

Set

Hatched

Weight

Remarks

1

8.4.06

-

-

Infertile

2

8.4.06

26.4.06

31g

Hand-reared

3

12.4.06

30.4.06

32g

Died at seven days

4

14.4.06

3.5.06

30g

Died at five days

5

17.4.06

5.5.06

32g

Hand-reared

6

26.4.06

15.5.06

30g

Angel wing

7

26.4.06

17.5.06

28g

Hand-reared

8

26.4.06

15.5.06

30g

Angel wing

9

30.4.06

21.5.06

27g

Hand-reared

10

4.5.06

25.5.06

27g

Hand-reared

11

4.5.06

24.5.06

30g

Hand-reared

the wings for seven days. A second school of thought suggests that rearing chicks under a white light contributes to this problem. So, perhaps it was more than coincidence that these were the only two chicks reared under a white light.

All of the chicks were by then eating softfood and a mixture of finely diced soft fruits, along with seed.

Having reared enough chicks for my purpose, I now plan to leave the male to incubate any further eggs, and hope to report that he managed to hatch and rear the chicks, assisted perhaps by the female (as is the way with tinamous).

Reference

Davies, S. I. J. F. 2002. Ratites and Tinamous. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

116

BREEDING THE WHITE-HEADED MOUSEBIRD

Colius leucocephalus

by Bryan Andrews

In February 2005, Phil Cleeton of C&J Bird Brokers imported, amongst a number of other birds, some White-headed Mousebirds, six of which were obtained by me. They arrived in fine condition, with full tails; these being twice the length of the body are not always so complete.

Sarah Lewis & Bryan Andrews

Two females sitting on the same nest.

I housed them indoors, keeping them at a temperature of 73°F (22.8°C), in an all-wire suspended cage. In the spring of that year they were moved to a 9ft x 3ft x 6ft (approx. 2.7m x lm x 1.8m) planted aviary with a sleeping box, with heating and lighting in it. The box was rarely used, the birds preferring instead to spend the nights hanging in a cluster from the roof netting, until the morning sun brought them out of their torpid state.

Housed on their own, they were offered and ate the same softbill diet as my other birds. This consisted of diced fruit, Bogena Universal and chopped greens, with sliced papaya (pawpaw). I should add here that since January 2006, following constant nagging by Phil Cleeton, I now feed all fruits and vegetables halved not diced.

At the beginning of June, all six mousebirds were seen feeding each other and showing great interest in the canary wicker nest pans placed amongst fir cuttings and bamboos. They would add to and take away fresh

ANDREWS - WHITE-HEADED MOUSEBIRD

117

Sarah Lewis & Bryan Andrews

Chicks and eggs in nest built in fine-leaved bamboo.

Sarah Lewis & Bryan Andrews

The length of the young mousebird’s tail is still only approximately two-thirds the length of the adult birds’ tails.

118

ANDREWS - WHITE-HEADED MOUSEBIRD

greenery they had placed in the pans daily. With no visual way of sexing the six birds, I just let them get on with it. They would feed and groom each other and I would find them sitting in different nests each time I looked.

On making a closer inspection in mid-July, I found that two of the nests each contained two eggs. Prior to leaving for a month-long stay in Indonesia with my partner, young were being fed by the adults. However, while in Singapore, we received a phone call to say that the birds in the aviaries back home in Wales were being bothered by a Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus and that the commotion it had caused had resulted in the loss of the young mousebirds.

No further nesting attempt was made and on our return I moved the mousebirds into an unheated indoor flight for the winter.

At the start of April 2006 the mousebirds were moved to an outdoor aviary that was densely planted with bamboo and a number of large shrubs. They shared the aviary with Elegant Crested Tinamou Eudromia elegans and Gambel’s Quail Lophortyx gambellii. The planting of the aviary made viewing of the nests extremely difficult. However, on June 5th, I was able to see two mousebirds sitting tightly on separate nests, one was in a canary- type nest pan and the other was on a beautifully woven nest that the birds had made themselves. It was approximately 5ft (1 .5m) above the ground in the centre of a fine-leaved bamboo. This is the nest shown in the photo on p. 1 1 7. The photos were taken after I finally plucked up enough courage, and against all the rules, ventured into the undergrowth and photographed the two nests, which between them contained a total of three eggs and four chicks. I had no way of knowing which bird had laid which eggs in which nest. Plus, I understand that females will share nests and both birds will sit on the eggs, as can be seen in the photo on p. 1 1 6, taken during the 2005 breeding season.

I can vouch for the fact that all the adult group take part in the feeding and preening of the young, as the four fully-fledged young could be viewed in food-passing sessions. With their body size now, at the time of writing (July 2006), not so different from that of the parent birds, it is only by looking at the length of their tails that I can tell them